- Whānau Ora Resilience Navigator
- Ngati Kahu
Using her skills to help her Māori community with earthquake recovery.
Living rurally in the South Island, Eileen Wolland (Ngati Kahu) studied a Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) by distance learning with Open Polytechnic to improve her job choices and have more whānau time.
For Eileen, distance learning meant she could worry less about long commutes to class and focus more on being a mother. She explains, “Distance learning for me was really awesome because for the majority of my degree I worked full-time and lived far away so attending a campus wasn’t really an option and being a mum, I could do it at night and around my child.”
Before studying, Eileen worked in hospitality, often working nights and weekends whilst raising her daughter. She says, “Working in hospitality as a single mum was hard trying to juggle my hours because it didn’t always fit in with childcare. So, I wanted to work towards a job that was going to fit around me and my whānau, during school hours, to have weekends with my children. I also wanted to increase our income.”
As a first time tertiary learner, Eileen decided to begin with a single course in psychology. She wanted to learn something that would help her grow personally as well as professionally.
“I enjoyed it very much and learnt so much positive information and life skills from my first course that I decided to take another psychology paper and I ended up loving that pathway and just stuck with psychology,” she says.
“I learned about who I am and where I come from, especially through learning about the Māori health perspective, which has also helped my whānau.”
Taking a whānau-led perspective
Towards the end of her studies, Eileen started working as a teacher aide at her daughter’s school, helping children with learning difficulties. Later on, she was excited to get the role of Whānau Ora Resilience Navigator, in which she has been in for over a year now.
As a Whānau Ora resilience navigator, Eileen focuses on the earthquake recovery space in Hurunui where there was a 7.8 earthquake in 2016. She uses the knowledge she’s learned through her studies to help work with whānau who have been affected by the earthquake. Eileen explains, “Whānau Ora is whānau-led, so we visit with the whānau and develop a path plan which is going to help develop their well-being in whichever area they choose.”
“My study has given me the skills to be able to enter whānau homes and build strong working relationships to help develop their wellbeing because you won't be able to help or connect with whānau without building a good relationship first.”
She says, “Before I started my degree I knew nothing about Māori health perspectives. The third course I took, Te Hauora Hine Ngaro, changed my whole perspective of the world. There are many things that I connected with through that course and still use daily in my job.”
Eileen is passionate about her job and enjoys developing others’ strengths. She says, “A lot of whānau don't realise the skills they have, or how to develop their skills, and when they get to the point that they can look within themselves and find those strengths that they have, that's really rewarding for me.”
Supported the whole way
Eileen says, “The support I received from Open Polytechnic while I studied was amazing. Whenever I had any questions or faced difficulties, they were really supportive and understanding.”
At one point during her studies, Eileen wanted to quit.
“I rang Open Polytechnic and talked to the student support service, who gave me a different perspective and helped me get through that tough moment,” she explains.
Graduating with pride
For Eileen, graduation wasn’t only for her, it’s also about sharing it with the whānau and letting her children see the outcome of hard work. She says, “The best part was being able to bring my family and have them celebrate with me because they are a big part of the journey. They were there every assignment, every deadline, and every moment of overloaded-ness.”
“When I walked across the stage to get my degree it was quite amazing actually. I can't even describe the feeling. My husband tautoko me, that was very special,” Eileen explains.